To be in the company of any great ape is a very special experience. Making eye contact with the largest of all is very special indeed. It seems as if you can almost look into their soul seeing a thought process like in no other animal. They look back at you with intensity, with curiosity, with happiness, with sadness. Their eyes are truly the windows into their soul. I have recently travelled to Uganda’s famous Bwindi to trek in its impenetrable forest in search of the Mountain Gorilla.
The forest edge is mesmerising. From the outside you see a wall of foliage, a mixture of the tallest and oldest trees and a maze of vines and shrubs. This truly is Tarzan territory. My guide seems to simply melt into the undergrowth as I follow him, hoping that at every corner we turn there will be a dark shape watching us from a distance. The treks can be tough with many hours spent walking up and down the mountain sides in search of gorillas. Some of my first trek was spent on my hands and knees as I attempted to, not so elegantly, crawl up the steep unforgiving slopes. However, if luck is with you the group being tracked will be close to your lodge, and will involve only a relatively short walk.
Up ahead are a pair of trackers who set out at first light to find the mountain gorillas. Our lead guide is in constant radio communication with them to take us in the correct direction a few hours later. On hearing their voices your hear rate increases, it means you must be close! You take your last sip of water, and prepare your camera, the gorillas are only 200m away.
On my first trek I visited the Mubare group. In their resting area the foliage was dense, and occasionally a pair of eyes could be seen peering through the leaves. As some of the group relaxed a few of the gorillas moved out into a clearing. Watching the group was fascinating. The intelligence, the facial expressions, and the social behaviour was incredible as the infants swung through the trees with their mothers making vocal noises towards them almost to gesture ‘be careful, do not go too far’. From a non photographic point of view just to sit and observe this scene was a huge privilege.
On my second, third and fourth trek I hiked a much shorter distance to the Habinyanja group. This group is 18 strong in members with a huge silverback, and 3 infants. Their feeding points were more open to the vegetation which provided some clearer views for photography. Although most mornings I awoke to bright sunshine by the time we had reached the gorillas the storm clouds were gathering. This luckily gave a much softer light to work with in the middle of the day. Within my four treks I was very lucky to witness many individuals from enormous silverbacks to week old infants. With only roughly 800 individuals left in the world today making eye contact with such a critically endangered mammal is a memory which will last with me forever.
Due to the success of this trip and previous trips to photograph mountain gorillas, you now have a once in a lifetime opportunity to join me next year to take your very own images! If you have always dreamt of seeing a wild mountain gorilla deep in the Ugandan/Rwandan forests then please follow this link for more information: https://tomwayphotography.co.uk/gorilla-photographic-safari-2/
If you have any questions regarding the 2016 Gorilla Photographic safari please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or ring me on 07876 333787.